As you all know (how could you not?!), Anne Boleyn, Queen of England and second wife to Henry VIII, was executed on 19th May 1536 at the Tower of London after being found guilty of treason.
After her head was taken off by one swift sword stroke, her ladies wrapped her head and body in white cloth and took her to the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula within the Tower grounds, where she was placed in an old elm wood arrow chest for burial.
Anne Boleyn did not have a burial befitting a Queen, instead she was most likely buried in a common grave, without any type of memorial, and was later joined by her cousin Catherine Howard and the teenage queen, Lady Jane Grey.
Anne Boleyn’s Remains Found
During the reign of Queen Victoria, the remains of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard were discovered during renovations to the chapel. According to Antonia Fraser, their bones were discovered under the paved area in the chapel chancel and were then re-interred in the crypt which you can see today. Around 1,500 bodies were found during the excavations and only 33 of them could be identified.
“Angelosdaughter” on “The Tudors” Wiki site found a book from 1877 by Doyne C. Bell (“Notices of the Historic Burials in the Chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London With an Account of the Discovery of the Supposed Remains of Queen Anne Boleyn” 1877, John Murray, Albermarle St.). In the book, it states that bones thought to be Anne’s were found with pieces of elm wood, from the arrow chest, and that they were examined and identified by a Dr Mouat who described them as follows:-
“The bones found in the place where Queen Anne is said to have been buried are certainly those of a female in the prime of life, all perfectly consolidated and symmetrical and belong to the same person. The bones of the head indicate a well-formed round skull, with an intellectual forehead, straight orbital ridge, large eyes, oval face, and rather square full chin. The remains of the vertebra and the bones of the lower limbs indicate a well-formed woman of middle height with a short and slender neck. The ribs shew (sic) depth and roundness of chest. The hand and feet bones indicate delicate and well-shaped hands and feet, with tapering fingers and a narrow foot.”
Although popular belief is that a sixth finger was found, Dr Mouat does not mention this.
Many people feel that Anne Boleyn’s body should be dug up so that we can learn more about what she looked like and to finally prove that she did not have six fingers, but why should we disturb Anne Boleyn’s final resting place for our own morbid curiosity? Let’s leave her at peace.
Anne’s Final Resting Place Today
It is possible to visit the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London to see Anne Boleyn’s final resting place and also those of Catherine Howard, Lady Jane Grey and the Saints Thomas More and John Fisher. The Chapel is a place of worship, not just a monument, so either visit it on a special “Yeoman Warder Tour” or go after 4.30pm.
The chapel dates back to 1520 and is well worth seeing for its monuments, history and beauty, as well as to see Anne Boleyn’s resting place. Flowers are laid on 19th May every year as people remember Anne Boleyn and you may want to lay your own flower, or just pause and take in the serene ambiance of this chapel as you remember this queen.
Click here to go to the Tower of London website and find out more about its attractions, the chapel and tours.
Is Anne actually at Rest?
Many people (not me though!) believe that Anne Boleyn’s spirit is not at rest and that she haunts the Tower of London still today. In a Tower of London fact sheet, they state that witnesses have seen:-
“a headless female figure, she drifts from Queen’s House to the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula and leads a procession of dignatories down the aisle to the site of her final burial place under the chapel’s altar”
Personally, I am convinced that Anne is with her creator, just as she believed she would be, and that she has better things to do than haunt a place with such awful memories for her! What do you think?