Did anyone else cry when they watched the execution scene in The Tudors? I know I did, and it still makes me cry now. Whatever your thoughts on Anne Boleyn, history shows that she was courageous, noble and loyal to the King even in the face of death.
A Brave and Bloody End
For those of you who missed Natalie Dormer’s excellent performance, here it is:-
Even though her marriage to Henry VIII had been annulled, Anne Boleyn was still executed as an adultress and still she accepted it, sending only a note to Henry which said:-
“Commend me to his Majesty, and tell him that he has ever been constant in his career of advancing me. From a private gentlewoman he made me a marchioness, from a marchioness a Queen; and now that he has no higher degree of honour left, he gives my innocence the crown of martyrdom as a saint in heaven.” From Ecclesiastical Memorials, London 1820-40, John Strype, quoted in “Anne Boleyn”, Joanna Denny.
Anne did not want to cause trouble and put the life of her daughter, Princess Elizabeth, in danger by fighting her execution. Due to the marriage being annulled, Elizabeth was now classed as a bastard and Princess Mary was now seen as the legitimate heir to the throne.
Although Anne co-operated with Henry and Cranmer by signing away Elizabeth’s right of succession, she was not banished to the country like Catherine of Aragon (which Henry could have easily allowed seeing as she was no longer guilty of adultery) because Henry knew that Anne was far too dangerous an opponent to leave alive. Cranmer and Anne were betrayed, she was still executed.
The Speech of a True Gentlewoman
Instead of arguing and pleading her case, Anne Boleyn spent her time praying, and it is said that her dignified behaviour impressed her jailor, Sir William Kingston. I doubt that I could have given the following speech before having my head chopped off!:-
“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.” (Quoted from “Anne Boleyn”, Joana Denny, and taken from “The Triumphant Reigne of King Henry the VIII” by Edward Hall, 1904).
I’m sure that I would have gone kicking and screaming, especially as the only “evidence” of her “crimes” was the words of a man under torture!
After taking off her jewellery and headress, Anne paid and forgave her executioner, a French swordsman, and knelt praying “Oh 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’s head was removed with one skilled stoke of the sword, Henry VIII readied himself for his marriage to Jane Seymour.