Anne Boleyn – My End is My Beginning

Posted By on October 4, 2010

Here at The Anne Boleyn, I’m always happy to publish guest articles by historians and quality articles from Tudor history fans, so I’m delighted to share this piece of creative writing from Anne Boleyn Files visitor, Carolyn M. Lucas. Carolyn’s retelling of Anne Boleyn’s execution is based on a very vivid dream she had recently and is a very moving account. I hope you enjoy it as much I did.

My End Is My Beginning

Carolyn M. Lucas

“Madame, it is time.”

Anne faced the doorway with a composure she didn’t feel, and replied, “I am ready, Master Kingston.” He nodded gravely, bowed his head to her briefly, then turned to lead the way out of her rooms.

“Free!”, she thought giddily as she stepped across the threshold. Finally, she would be able to leave these rooms! Then she sobered abruptly, remembering what lay at the end of this brief freedom. She squared her shoulders and held her head up. She would die as the queen she was, she thought fiercely. She had spent the night in prayer and in reminiscences with her ladies, and had come to a sort of peace and composure. She had reminded herself that she wasn’t the first person to die unjustly, nor would she be the last. She had felt a pang at that, remembering her brother and the others who had died with him. Because of her. Because George was her brother, and the others, her friends and allies. Because her husband meant to be rid of them all.

She had watched, weeping, from the tower window. She had been too far away to hear them, but Master Kingston had sent one of his men to her later, as she lay sobbing, to tell her their last words. She had been so proud of George, at his composure and dignity, and hoped to die as bravely herself. And Henry Norris, there only because he had been the one present when her jangling nerves and sense of impending doom had caused her to lash out at him verbally. There had been witnesses to her loose tongue, and now he was dead, too. She had been grateful and humbled that he had gone to his death proclaiming her innocence.

And Mark Smeaton- she had been indignant when she had heard he confessed to what had never been. How could he? But then she realized- of course, he had been tortured. He hadn’t the rank to prevent it. And they had hurt him until he said whatever they wanted him to say, just to make the pain stop or maybe, to be granted a more merciful death. She had prayed for them all, of course. But she had sent up an extra plea for Mark, that God would be merciful. Certainly, He would know what they had done to him, how afraid and in pain he had been. She had prayed that God would hold him blameless for this, that the blame rightfully should be placed at the feet of the men who had done this- then had stopped herself. She should forgive, she had told herself. They were just following orders that came from- she stopped herself again. She must forgive or she would never find the peace she so desperately needed to face her own ordeal.

They had sent Archbishop Thomas Cranmer to her yesterday morning to hear her confession. She had asked Master Kingston, the Constable at the Tower, to stay so he could hear what she said. She gave him permission; nay, commanded him to tell others openly what he had heard. She had then proclaimed her innocence before God, swearing on the eternal damnation of her soul that she had never been unfaithful to her Lord and husband. Her king. After the Constable had left, Cranmer told her quietly that her marriage to Henry had been annulled on the grounds that her sister, Mary, had been his mistress before she and Henry had fallen in love. Yes, yes, she knew this already; Henry had sought a dispensation for that before they had ever married. She felt a hysterical giggle bubble up inside her. How could she possibly be guilty of adultery, then, if she had never truly been his wife? She knew, though, that it didn’t matter to Henry. He wanted her gone and his word was law.

She had asked the archbishop to look after her daughter, Elizabeth, who was now declared a bastard. Not even three years old- she couldn’t possibly understand what was happening. I don’t understand it, Anne admitted to herself. Thomas had looked at her with eyes shining with tears and had sworn to her he would do everything in his power to help Elizabeth and to oversee her religious upbringing. That he would tell her, when she was older, what her mother had been like, what had happened, and how much Anne had loved her. Anne had already asked her chaplain, Matthew Parker, to take care of Elizabeth if anything should happen to her. Between the two men, Anne felt at peace that Elizabeth was in the best possible hands. She had also asked the constable’s wife, Lady Kingston, to go to the Lady Mary and ask her in Anne’s name to forgive her for the wrongs she had done to her. It was all she could do now; it would have to be enough.

Anne’s musings stopped as she realized her feet had carried her to the Coldharbour Gate and the crowd that lay beyond. She forced herself to show no fear, smiling pleasantly as though she were processing to the chapel or to a feast. The crowd was subdued. Some crossed themselves as she passed them, and others reached out to touch her cloak. Some faces were hostile, while others wept and bobbed their heads as she went past. She could hear the faint clinking of the coins behind her that her ladies passed out as alms along the way.

Ahead lay the scaffold. She quailed inwardly as she saw it for the first time. There was another knot of people gathered here, too. They simply stood silently and watched her approach. These were the Lords and gentlemen whose rank or position entitled them to witness her death, and few of them were sympathetic to her, she knew. She saw the Duke of Suffolk, Charles Brandon. He had once been an ally of hers, but he was the King’s brother-in-law and Henry’s man to the last. She saw the headsman standing silently on the scaffold. He had been hired from Calais at great expense to dispatch her. He was an expert in the French manner of beheading- the victim knelt upright and was beheaded by sword. He was very skilled and the sword much sharper than an axe. It was much better than kneeling and putting one’s neck on the block, hoping the axeman didn’t botch it. Better, too, than being burned alive. She had originally faced that as a possible means of execution, as that was what the law decreed for a queen who committed adultery. It was also the penalty for witchcraft, and although she hadn’t been charged with that as well, she knew the murmurings put about by the King and his men, that she had used sorcery to seduce him into marriage. Her lips twisted wryly. How like Henry to blame others for his own actions, and by claiming such, he could also neatly avoid any blame for ending his first marriage. It was all Anne’s fault. He had even proclaimed that he would undo the divorce and go back to Katharine, if only he could. Conveniently, he hadn’t said that until after Katharine was dead. And now Anne would die, too, and Henry would be free to marry again. She forced her thoughts away from that subject.

She gathered her skirts and ascended the scaffold. Not too fast, she told herself. Not slowly, either, so that no one could claim she had shrank back in fear. Deliberately, with dignity, she climbed the few short steps and looked out across the crowd, hearing the others coming up behind her. She searched the faces, locking eyes with Thomas Cromwell with a flare of anger. The architect of her destruction. She was gratified to see his eyes drop from hers. That small victory steeled her nerves for what was next. She realized that she had been silent too long, and panicked for a second, fearing the executioner would proceed. She stepped closer to the Constable and quietly asked him, “I pray you, Master Kingston, not to give the order for my death until I have said what I have a mind to say. I promise I will only say what is good.” He nodded somberly, and she approached the edge of the scaffold to address the crowd.

She had practiced this speech for hours to get it right, so that she wouldn’t forget anything. All she had to do was say the first few words, and the rest would follow. Raising her voice to be heard by the crowd, she began: “Good Christian people…” It had been important to her to make it clear that she was submitting to her fate without confessing to any crimes. She hadn’t committed any. Except perhaps, of failing to give Henry the son she had so rashly promised him. She had certainly tried. During her scant three and a half years of marriage, she had been endlessly pregnant or recovering from childbirth. Or miscarriage. Too many of those, and only a daughter to show for all the years that she had loved Henry, had longed to be his wife, and finally was. And now it was over. She still felt stunned by how quickly he had turned against her. Certainly, they had argued over the years- they were a passionate couple and had made up as fiercely as they had argued. But still, he had turned Christendom upside down for her, had waited years to make her his. How could that change so quickly?

Finishing her speech, she knelt to pray. Standing again, it was the executioner’s turn to kneel and ask her forgiveness. This was part of the ritual; it was known and expected. She murmured her forgiveness to him in French, pleased that a small smile quirked up at the corner of his mouth at the gesture. She then repeated it louder, in English, for the crowd to hear, and as he stood, she gave him the pouch of money Master Kingston had given her to pay him. This was also part of the ritual. And now on with the rest. Her ladies helped her to remove her cloak and jewelry, then she removed her hood, leaving her hair beneath covered with a simple white coif. She bade her ladies goodbye, and handed the small prayer book she carried to the Constable, asking him to deliver it to her good friend, Margaret Wyatt, Lady Lee. Then she asked the crowd to pray for her, and knelt for the last time, tucking her gown modestly around her feet. As one of her ladies began to tie the blindfold for her, she was comforted to see the crowd kneeling down in prayer for her, before she saw nothing at all.

Nervous again, she began to pray, but was distracted by a sound behind her. Involuntarily, her head turned that direction, then she caught herself and turned her head forward again. It was important to hold one’s head still so that the executioner could make a clean cut, but she also knew the blow could come at any moment now. Master Kingston had assured her it wouldn’t hurt, but how could he know, truly? How could anyone know for sure? Another sound, and as she started to turn her head again, she heard the executioner call out, “Boy! Bring me my sword!” and she heard the lad in the direction of the steps answer. So. She had a few more seconds left, then.

Suddenly, she felt a blow and felt herself falling forward. No! She must get up. She must not do anything to take away from this last image of her dignity. But she couldn’t seem to move, her vision was darkening, and it was becoming very difficult to think. She had to do something. What was it? She couldn’t remem-

And then she was opening her eyes and raising up, and to her consternation, continued to rise until she was hovering above the scaffold. Oh Lord, they’ll really believe I’m a witch now, she thought frantically, stifling the urge to giggle. And realized she was looking down as a body was being covered on the scaffold. No one was looking at her. Her ladies were sobbing and the crowd was beginning to disperse. The truth dawned on her.

“I’m free!” she exulted, feeling a pull to climb higher. All of the fear, pain and regrets flowed away. She surged upward, joyously.

33 thoughts on “Anne Boleyn – My End is My Beginning”

  1. Eliza says:

    Beautiful piece! Thank you for sharing it!!

    Just a quick question… Was Anne blindfolded when she received the blow of the sword? I can’t remember what I have read.

  2. miladyblue says:

    I think you could teach the writers of “historical fiction” a thing or two, Ms. Lucas. Bravo, I was hanging on every word!

  3. Anne Barnhill says:

    I always know the ending but I keep hoping it will not end. Thanks!

  4. Linda Walsh says:

    Very well written. There must be a book in Carolyn’s future-if not there should be!

  5. Rob says:

    Oh, that’s lovely. What a fine idea, to think that she would have gone to a better place and that some form of consciousness would have followed her there. Really good.

  6. Carolyn says:

    Thanks, guys! After I submitted it to Claire, I noticed the foreshadowing of Anne hearing things behind her (her ladies handing out alms, and those following her up onto the scaffold) leading up to her being distracted and looking back at the executioner. Totally unintentional on my part, at least consciously.

    Eliza, yes, she was blindfolded. Even so, she kept turning around at any sound from the executioner. Nerves, I guess. The executioner distracted her by calling for his sword when he already held it in his hands. One account has him taking off his shoes so she wouldn’t hear him coming up behind her. If true, it was kind for him to do that.

    I liked that my dream showed her being a little flirty with the swordsman. Anne was certainly a charmer. I also liked the little bits of ‘inappropriate’ laughter from Anne, and that she worried about Mark Smeaton. I’m most happy that it was a happy ending for her.

    Thanks for publishing this, Claire, and thanks to everyone who read it!

  7. teamanne says:

    WOW, just amazingly written! Thank you for that, Carolyn for the article and Claire for posting it. 🙂

  8. Sharon says:

    Bravo, Carolyn that was beautiful. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  9. Eliza says:

    Thank you for answering, Carolyn!! I’m “jealous” of you for your dreams!! 😉 And of course for your amazing writing skills!!

  10. Katherine Stinson says:

    *Claps* Well well done! You captured Anne amazingly well. I admire your writing skills! Although I always hate the ending, you did it in such a ways that I felt a little bit better about Anne dying. Not by much, but the fact that she was, “Free” made me smile a bit! Good job!

  11. Kim Kloes says:

    Excellent job of getting inside Anne’s head at the end of her life. I was hanging on every word and could very clearly visualize what was happening. Thank you for sharing your writing talents.

  12. Sheena says:

    Good job Carolyn! To think that this came to you in a dream? How wonderful and scary it must have been to see this unfold before your eyes. Thank you for having Claire post this wonderful piece! =)

  13. MeChelle says:

    That was an awesome piece , enjoyed it immensely !!!!

  14. Bella says:

    Wow Carolyn, what a beautiful piece of writing. Puts a lot of ‘historical’ novelists to shame! It really felt like we were able to get inside Anne’s head and all the awful emotions she must have felt in her last moments. Thank-you so much for sharing, it was a real joy to read (if joy is the right word!)

  15. Louise says:

    Congratulations Carolyn, this is a really lovely article. I wish I had those sort of dreams; mine are all horrible!

  16. Noelle7 says:

    That was lovely, thank you!

  17. Lexy says:

    Excellent work, Carolyn! You caught Anne’s mind as it surely was! Thanks for this moment of reading, and may I beg you… More, more, more!

  18. Eliza M. L. says:

    Brilliant! Please give us more!

  19. Julie B. says:

    Nice job Carolyn! This was very enjoyable to read. Poor Anne, she must have had a million emotions running through her at that time. She wanted to appear strong, but at the same time she was terrified. A part of her probably wanted to end the misery but then she felt awful for leaving her daughter behind. Anyways, great job Carolyn…

  20. lisaannejane says:

    Wow! I felt as if I were there! You have a gift for writing, Carolyn. I hope you share more of it.

  21. David says:

    This was a fabulous article and extremely well written. I could not help but get a very detailed vision of the execution and indeed all that was going on around the scaffold as well. I will carry this vision with me when my wife and I visit the Tower of London and spend a quiet moment for Anne’s sake at the site of the scaffold. So young she was and so misunderstood by the people and the court. Your at peace Anne and God knows you to be innocent.

    1. carlypink says:

      as long as you know that where the momument is is not where the scaffold was, it was actually between what is now the crown jewel building and the white tower.

  22. Mandey Becker says:

    WOW….very impressive. I am an aspiring historical fiction writer and I found this piece to be beautifully written and inspiring.

  23. Emily says:

    Lovely! I usually do not enjoy historical fiction but this was so well-written, it brought a tear to my eye at the ending… 🙂

  24. I saw the movie the other Boleyn girl today on tv 10/17/2010 I also have the video and the books. I saw In the movie that Anne married someone else before she Henry viii who was it?

    1. carlypink says:

      It may have not been the best of films for reality but it is said that she was betrothed to henry norris before she married henry

  25. Carolyn says:

    She didn’t, Jennifer. The Other Boleyn Girl is fiction.

  26. bruce c says:

    I agree with everyone here in saying that was a brilliant and highly detailed account of Anne’s last moments both before and after her execution and also quiet moving as well. 🙂 🙂 🙂

  27. bethany.x says:

    Crying of course. I loved it.
    Thanks for writing this.

  28. carlypink says:

    What a powerful piece, it has moved me to the core. I type this with tear running down my face for the sadness of this piece and do truely hope and pray that Anne is truely at rest.
    I will be visiting hever and the tower of london in may to pay my respects to the women who brought about so much change to this country and will remember that i owe my own freedom and rights mainly to her.

  29. Kara says:

    It was said that the executioner actually got shaky from the beautiful spiritual presence of Anne. He said her graceful words were that of truth and of nothing he had heard before from a prisoner let alone a Queen. Either way he was paid to do the job so he had to fight his thoughts of Anne’s grace and beauty to administer the fatal blow.

    I think it’s great she healed herself so high not showing fear and proclaiming her innocence to the crowd. She also said for people to take up her case and judge it correctly, instead of unjustly. I applaud her courage to stand in front of those who hated her and condemned her to die. I’m glad Crammer got what he had coming in the end. As for her father, well I’m glad that he was kept alive to deal with the loss of 2 children, all for what? Greed! Ugh it makes e sick.. How could anyone use their children as pawns to gain nobility?

  30. Riah says:

    My goodness I was ravished by this piece. It was absolutely amazing. You seem to have captured her essence of fear, tribulation, and honour in every word. My favourite part is the ending because it is so moving and it embodies the spirit of Anne. Also thr ending is a very nice addition to just her feeling nothing and dying. It is a great point of view.

  31. Sway says:

    I’ve never read this and was pleasantly surprised to come by it today in one of my regular visits here. It’s a lovely piece, thank you!

    On a slightly different topic, I must say, looking at the photos you used to capture the moment of Anne’s beheading, I remembered how appalled I was at the performance of Natalie Portman at this exact moment. In the moment, when she had to play Queen Anne at her most strong, dignified moment, the moment that would be remembered by history… she played her as a weak, trembling, crying, pale person. I remember looking at her thinking “Okay…pathetic.” She just wasn’t Anne. She was playing some scared woman, hoping until the last seconds, that she will be pardoned. And we know this wasn’t the case. We know Anne had accepted her fate and was prepared to die with dignity and faith. And Portman showed something entirely different in “The Other Boleyn Girl”.
    Oh well… just needed to say it 🙂

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