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Anne the sword/Katherine the axe
May 11, 2011
1:59 pm
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Sophie1536
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Why?

Why did Henry have Anne beheaded by a sword and Katherine the axe?
I've read accounts of both executions but I'm still none the wiser why Henry beheaded his two Queens so differently.

I know Anne was at one point going to be burned, was Katherine?

Is it the sad fact that Henry just couldn't be bothered to arrange for a skilled swordsman?, or simply he couldn't be bothered full stop.

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May 11, 2011
2:11 pm
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Louise
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Anne's sentence was to be either burnt or beheaded, depending on the King's will. He chose beheading. Beheading with the sword was the French method, and as Anne had spent so much time in France as a child and young adult, he allowed her to be beheaded the French way. No doubt he thought he was being kind! 

May 12, 2011
8:08 am
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Claire-Louise
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It's strange isn't it, I've often wondered if Henry was trying to mock Anne and her french ways, or did he see it as a kindness? And could he just not be bothered when it came to Katherine, or was it that he didn't want to think about her execution? It's just so hard to tell as he clearly wasn't in the right mind, and so it is almost impossible to try and figure out his thought processes and reasons for his actions. I suppose some people would say that he loved Anne more, but the thing is I don't think Henry was capable of loving any of his wives, I think he only knew how to be obsessed with a person. Could that be the answer, that he was more obsessed with Anne than he was with Katherine?

May 12, 2011
8:24 am
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Sophie1536
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It really is a question I've pondered many times, maybe he just got to the point of past caring…..he just wanted her dealt with.

As to Anne maybe he thought he had to do it properly as she was a woman and there could be some backlash although this was the bloody 16th century it was still pretty awful beheading a woman even in those times. By the time it came to Katherine he was an old hand at it as he'd previously beheaded Margaret Pole. Interesting topic I've asked!

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May 12, 2011
8:33 am
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Anyanka
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According to wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D…..by_burning) Jane  Grey  was also condemned to being burnt as they were considered traitors. AB and KH for adultery, JG for rebelllion.

 

In the United Kingdom, the traditional punishment for women found guilty
of treason was to be burnt at the stake, where they did not need to be
publicly displayed naked, while men were hanged, drawn and quartered. There were two types of treason, high treason for crimes against the Sovereign, and petty treason for the murder of one's lawful superior, including that of a husband by his wife.

 

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May 12, 2011
8:37 am
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Claire-Louise
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Sophie1536 said:

As to Anne maybe he thought he had to do it properly as she was a woman and there could be some backlash although this was the bloody 16th century it was still pretty awful beheading a woman even in those times. By the time it came to Katherine he was an old hand at it as he'd previously beheaded Margaret Pole. Interesting topic I've asked!


Very good point, I didn't think about that. Also by this point he had beheaded so many of his closest advisors, friends and a wife so he had become progressively more brutal.

May 12, 2011
12:15 pm
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MegC
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Being beheaded by ax is a dreadful way to go.  I mean, being beheaded in general I'm sure isn't the most pleasant experience, but if you have to go by either ax or sword, then sword is the way to go.  Henry WAS being kind by a) having Anne being beheaded instead of burned and b) letting her be beheaded by sword rather than ax.  Too many stories in English history of botched beheadings that required more than one swing to finish the job (Thomas Cromwell comes to mind–and poor Margaret Pole, though, from what I understand, the stories of her death have been somewhat exaggerated over the years), either because of a dull ax blade, an inexperience executioner, or just a poor swing.  

Certainly, the ax isn't the most efficient way of removing one's head.  I don't know if Henry's choice of sword had so much to do with him than it did the fact that Anne still had some supporters and friends in France.  Someone put the idea into Henry's head because I guarantee you he wouldn't have come up with it on his own.  Perhaps the King of France mentioned it or the French ambassador or something.  Who knows?

I don't think too highly of Katherine Howard, but when it comes to her execution, I think she died in much the same way she spent most of her life:  alone.  Her uncle (Norfolk) had abandonned her, Culpepper had abandonned her, Henry had abandonned her, and, according to most reports, Jane Parker had gone mad.  Unlike Anne, there was real evidence that she had committed adultery.  No one was going to go to bat for her because everyone was trying to distance themselves from her like rats leaving a sinking ship.  And certainly after having executed a wife, a friend (More), a Chancellor (Cromwell–who, apparently, is the only person Henry ever said he regretted executing), and myriads of other people who were just unfortunate enough, for the most part, to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, I'm guessing another wife, a lady-in-waiting, her lover, and her ex-lover were just more notches on his belt.

"We mustn't let our passions destroy our dreams…"

May 13, 2011
12:09 am
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Bill1978
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I like to take the view that perhaps this was Henry's way of telling people that he knew the charges against Anne were false. The sword seems more elegant and a tad more suitable for royality, so even though she wasn't technically Queen Anne, it was Henry's way of saying she was still a Queen. And much more dignified. Whereas with Katherine, she was closer to being guilty than not, so she lost the right to die as a Queen so got the axe. I know that's not the case, but that's my romanticised reason for the difference.

May 13, 2011
8:58 am
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Sharon
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Someone put the idea into Henry's brain that the sword would be more “humane.”  There was no precedent for executing a Queen.  Henry was making history. I'm sure he wanted the world to think that after everything Anne had done to him, poor him, he was able to find it in his great big heart to make sure that she was executed in a quick and painless (?) manner. Who knows, maybe he had a little conscience left at this time.

Catherine had no such luck. She really had humiliated him. She had cheated on him and everyone knew it.  How embarrassing for Henry.  I don't think he cared how she died.

May 18, 2011
7:47 am
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flickitywitch
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possibly something to do with the fact that he loved anne, even to the end perhaps, and she was the mother of his child gave her more respect in his eyes. kathryn was just a child and bore him no children. his relationship with kathryn was also much more frivolous and shallow i guess – she was used as a way to get over the pain of jane's death, and to show off his 'younger model' (a trophy wife almost.)

 

i know he was disappointed that elizabeth was not a boy, and after anne died, never really cared for her like he should have (who's laughing now!). maybe he realised it wasn't for the lack of trying on anne part.

May 18, 2011
1:48 pm
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DuchessofBrittany
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I've always understood that executing Anne with a swordsman was considered better and he was less likely to make a mistake. However, I also believe it spoke to Anne's Frenchness, but I cannot confirm this. There was no precedent for executing an anoited Queen, so Henry wanted to save face, and do it in a more humane way (I agree with Sharon on this). Regardless, Henry wanted Anne dealt with. I guess he wanted to kill her according to her station, and show the world he was a merciful Prince (mercifiul according to Tudor standards, I guess).

"By daily proof you shall find me to be to you both loving and kind" Anne Boleyn

May 31, 2011
12:51 am
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E
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Sharon said:

Someone put the idea into Henry's brain that the sword would be more “humane.”  There was no precedent for executing a Queen.  Henry was making history. I'm sure he wanted the world to think that after everything Anne had done to him, poor him, he was able to find it in his great big heart to make sure that she was executed in a quick and painless (?) manner. Who knows, maybe he had a little conscience left at this time.

Catherine had no such luck. She really had humiliated him. She had cheated on him and everyone knew it.  How embarrassing for Henry.  I don't think he cared how she died.


Hey Sharon, I thought it was Anne's request for a french swordsman, but can't remember where I heard it from.. He loved to feel sorry for himself didn't he?! I can't help but think of Henry 8 as a fat, spoiled baby screaming at everyone! One day I will have to draw this image and put it on the site for everyone!

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May 31, 2011
9:04 am
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Sophie1536
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I always understood that it was Henry who personally ordered a skilled swordsman from France, as Anne was the first woman and English Queen to be beheaded I suppose he thought after all he'd better get this part right although I feel myself that it was part guilt over the whole sorry affair Cry

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May 31, 2011
9:53 am
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Sharon
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E said:

Sharon said:

Someone put the idea into Henry's brain that the sword would be more “humane.”  There was no precedent for executing a Queen.  Henry was making history. I'm sure he wanted the world to think that after everything Anne had done to him, poor him, he was able to find it in his great big heart to make sure that she was executed in a quick and painless (?) manner. Who knows, maybe he had a little conscience left at this time.

Catherine had no such luck. She really had humiliated him. She had cheated on him and everyone knew it.  How embarrassing for Henry.  I don't think he cared how she died.


Hey Sharon, I thought it was Anne's request for a french swordsman, but can't remember where I heard it from.. He loved to feel sorry for himself didn't he?! I can't help but think of Henry 8 as a fat, spoiled baby screaming at everyone! One day I will have to draw this image and put it on the site for everyone!


E, The swordsman had to have been ordered before the trials took place in order for the swordsman to travel the distance from his home in St Omer, to England.  The messenger or messengers had to travel to Dover, then take ship to Calais, and go yet further to St Omer.  Then the swordsman had to leave St Omer travel to Calais to take the ship to Dover and then ride to London. 

He would have been sent for well before the trials in order to have arrived by May 18th.  It was all Henry.

May 31, 2011
11:42 am
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BoleynBlue
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How long do you think the whole journey there and back would have taken? one week/2 weeks or more?

I was just trying to work out when the messengers would have left for France.

May 31, 2011
12:22 pm
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Anyanka
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St Omer isn't that far from Calais. 40-45 kilometers according to Googlemaps. The distance from London to St Omer is 130 miles also Googelmaps.

 

The major problems would be the weather crossing the channel and the conditiions of the roads. Since it would have been the King's messengers, they would have had the best horses and the ability to get a fast ship, possibly even a war-ship to cross the channel.

 

I'm guessing at least a week but more likely 10 days. I have to go out now but when I get back I'll dig up the calculations I did for a previous thread to see how long it would take by horse.

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May 31, 2011
12:32 pm
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Sharon
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BoleynBlue,

Alison Weir tries to break it down by saying, A couple days for messenger or messengers to get to Dover from London. (70 miles).  20 mile boat trip from Dover to Calais and depending on the weather could take days. From Calais to St Omer is 22 miles. Then reverse this.

She says for the quickest journey the messenger would have left on the 14th of May.  The Spanish Chronicle states the King “sent a week before to St Omer for a headsman, and nine days after they sent, he arrived.”  If he arrived on the 18th, he had been summoned on May 9th or 10th.” She says these calculations may not be precise, but they show that the people were aware that the executioner had been summoned well before the trial.

May 31, 2011
11:47 pm
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BoleynBlue
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Thank you Sharon

June 2, 2011
12:46 am
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Sophie1536
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Since posting this topic I've come to ask myself lots of questions and one that interests me is that when Katherine knew her fate did she automatically assume that she would be given the same privilege (if you can call it that!) and be executed by a skilled swordsman?

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June 2, 2011
2:21 pm
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Bella44
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I don't think Katherine assumed she'd be executed by sword.  I think she only spent a few days in the Tower and asked for the block to practice on the night before she knew she was to die.  But I've always wondered if the act of attainder passed against Katherine had anything to do with it?  Of course the act meant she didn't get a trial like Anne either.  Maybe the axe was just the standard method for anyone under the act of attainder.

But then Henry had had some time to fine tune the whole executing-your-wife thing too….!

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