You may well have heard that an e-petition has been set up calling on HM Government to “Grant Anne Boleyn a royal pardon for the crimes she was wrongly accused of. Let her be re buried in Westminster Abbey with her daughter Elizabeth I. Grant her a royal funeral as she rightly deserved.”
This follows on from the campaign by Commander George Melville-Jackson who, in 2005, called on Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary at the time, to pardon Anne Boleyn and to have her remains laid to rest alongside her daughter Elizabeth I. The Wing-Commander worked tirelessly on his campaign, writing to the Queen and historians, consulting a barrister etc. but it was all in vain and sadly he died without completing his mission.
People keep asking me to share the petition and to spread the word and I’m happy to mention it but I will not be signing it or supporting it – sorry.
How can I, a person who runs an Anne Boleyn site and who spends every day reading and writing about the Boleyns, not support this petition? Don’t I care about Anne? Well, yes, I do. I care about her a great deal. Here are the reasons I won’t be signing:
- I feel that it’s a fruitless endeavour – As I said before in a previous article about this, a barrister told the Wing Commander back in 2005 that it is impossible to go to court and get a judicial review when there is no new evidence. We may believe that Anne was innocent and that it was a tragic miscarriage of justice and we can point out that the dates on the indictments don’t make sense, but we cannot prove her innocence after so long. Also a pardon still suggests that she did something to be pardoned for. No new evidence has come to light since the 2005 campaign.
- What about George Boleyn? Norris? Smeaton? Brereton? Weston? Margaret Pole? Lady Jane Grey? Archbishop Cranmer? – I’m sure you can add to that list – Why just Anne? Where do we draw the line?
- Westminster Abbey is full – Unless Anne is put in the same vault as Elizabeth I and Mary I there just isn’t room for her.
- Anne is buried as queen – Anne may not have had a fitting burial at the time of her death, but the Victorians who carried out restoration work on the chancel at St Peter ad Vincula buried the remains they thought to be Anne as queen. The remains were “soldered up in thick leaden coffers, and then fastened down with copper screws in boxes made of oak plank, one inch in thickness. Each box bore a leaden escutcheon, on which was engraved the name of the person whose supposed remains were thus enclosed, together with the dates of death, and of the year (1877) of the reinterment.” A beautiful memorial tile marks the spot where they buried her remains and it reads “Queen Anne Boleyn”. The Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula is a beautiful place and is a place of worship. I would hate to see the chancel desecrated to exhume Anne when I find it much more peaceful than Westminster Abbey. That tile speaks of Anne’s story and she is remembered with a basket of roses and flowers from visitors every 19 May. I don’t feel that that could happen at Westminster.
- Education is better – For me, it is more important to spend my time educating people about the story of Anne and the men who fell with her in 1536 rather than campaigning for a pardon for her. I’m not criticising those who feel a pardon is important, it just isn’t my priority.
- It doesn’t change anything – A pardon and moving Anne’s remains will not change anything. We cannot rewrite history and some people will still think she was guilty anyway. Anne is long gone, as is her daughter, and as someone who shares the faith they held I believe that they are in Heaven and have no need for Anne to be pardoned or her remains to be moved.
- Fight injustice today instead – Let’s campaign for justice for those suffering miscarriages of justice today instead. I know that signing this petition doesn’t prevent us from signing others too and it doesn’t mean we don’t care about what’s happening today, but if we’re going to spend a lot of time campaigning for something then let it be something that we can actually change. Support human rights organisations like Amnesty International – https://www.amnesty.org/en/ – or take a stand about something that’s unfair or abusive in your local community. Anne Boleyn, along with Thomas Cromwell, cared about poor relief, she supported education, she was a charitable woman. While I cannot speak for Anne and say how she’d feel about this petition, I know from her actions in her lifetime that she’d be encouraging of people supporting charities.
- There are better things to spend money on – This petition calls for a royal funeral for Anne, something that will costs an awful lot of money. Even if the money was raised through donations I can still think of better ways to spend that sort of money in Anne’s name.
I know some people will not be happy about the stand I’m taking on this. These reasons are, of course, personal to me, but I feel strongly about them and when I am being asked to spread the news about the petition I feel that I need to tell people where I stand on this issue and why I’m saying “no”. I’m certainly not going to try and stop people signing it – it can be signed at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/75670. We all feel differently about things and I’m respectful of other people’s views, this just isn’t for me.