As you all know, Anne Boleyn, second wife and Queen Consort to Henry VIII, was executed on 19th May 1536 at the Tower of London after being convicted of treason, adultery and incest.
I’ve already written a blog post on her final resting place at the Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula in the Tower of London grounds, but I wanted to share with you the experience and wonderful photos of Paudie Kennelly, an Anne Boleyn Files visitor, who was lucky enough to visit the Tower of London on 19th May, Anne Boleyn Day, when we remember the execution of Anne.
I asked Paudie’s permission to share with you his photos and his experience, so here they are…
This YouTube video has been produced from Paudie’s beautiful photos:-
A visit to Saint Peter ad Vincula, The Tower of London – 19th of May 2009
I may be “Love’s greatest fool” but… ever since I first read of the wives of King Henry VIII, as a student in history class, the final words of Queen Anne Boleyn on the scaffold on Tower Green have stayed with me. Since then, I have had a wish to visit one day and to sit and reflect at the final resting place of a Queen who had achieved so much in a life cut so short.
With her last words, Queen Anne professed her love for King Henry VIII, her husband, who ultimately was the instigator of her execution on trumped up charges, as history would tell us. Such an expression of true Love had me looking at the page in disbelief and those words said by Queen Anne will forever remain with me and have my admiration.
I had read that a floral tribute was delivered every year anonymously, on the anniversary of her death, to the Chapel of Saint Peter Ad Vincula, her resting place in the Tower. This has always captured my imagination and this year I made the trip to see it with my own eyes. How my friends laughed, “going to London to see a bunch of flowers?” But to me it was much, so much more.
I really did not know what to expect or how I would feel there. I found that The Tower of London was not as my mind’s eye had painted. It was to be more than I could have ever expected, both visually and spiritually. The Chapel of Saint Peter ad Vincula is the place of worship for the people who are stationed at, and who live in, the Tower and it is surprisingly more modern in parts than I had expected. On close inspection, there is so much more to see – so much history within the walls of this little Chapel. Entry is only allowed as part of a tour group, so I joined in with a group, twice!
The Chapel is such a spiritual and peaceful place and I was very surprised to feel so at ease there, knowing of all those buried underneath and how they had met their end. It was not how I had expected to feel at all, knowing the sad history and knowing that one of those souls resting there is Queen Anne Boleyn. I would like to think that kind prayers and fond thoughts by the countless visitors to this holy place have helped over many years.
To my amazement, Queen Anne is only remembered there by a simple nameplate. It is on the floor by the altar and on this stood the floral tribute of red roses in a basket. The card simply said: “Queen Anne Boleyn, 19th of May 1536” – how my heart wished it to be more… However, there is also a brass plate on the wall near the door, telling of who is buried beneath the floor of Saint Peter’s.
A happy yet sad moment for me. I had wanted to see this for so long and yet sadness took hold of me, not only in my remembrance of Queen Anne but how her final resting place is not befitting to my understanding of her place in history and her achievements. While sad for this fact, I said some prayers for her and somehow got the overwhelming feeling that she is at peace.
On leaving Saint Peter’s, I spoke to one of the Beefeaters and he told me that he had been there 25 years and the floral tribute has been delivered on the 19th of May for as long as anyone there remembers.
Just outside St Peter ad Vincula is Tower Green, the site that was used for many executions and the home of a memorial to all those who were executed just a few yards away. King Henry VIII had made apartments for Queen Anne on the far side of the green, prior to her Coronation, and they were befitting of the Lady he loved and would make his Queen. It was in those very same apartments, ironically, that she spent her last days in full view of the scaffold where her life was to be taken. The apartments would have been in front of her, as she knelt on the scaffold and died. What torture it must have been for her, seeing the scaffold being built from the very place she had prepared for her coronation just a few years before!
I retraced Queen Anne Boleyn’s footsteps from Traitors Gate, past the White Tower and up the steps to Tower Green – her apartments on the left and the Chapel of Saint Peter Ad Vincula on the right. I could only reflect on the bravery of this girl and how she must have felt walking through the Tower, having fallen from the grace of the King she loved so dearly. Nearly 500 years later, as I walked these steps, I thought to myself that she will always have the recognition of this admiring soul and that I am surely not alone as “Love’s greatest fool”.
I have been touched more than I could have imagined by the experiences of my visit on the 19th of May to the Tower of London and the Chapel of Saint Peter Ad Vincula, Queen Anne’s final resting place. I left there with much sadness in my heart, but, at the same time, I am glad to have had these personal experiences of my day in the Tower.
As long as people like me exist, dearest Queen Anne, the good memory of you will surely live on.
May you rest in peace.
Tower Green Monument
During his visit, Paudie made a note of what is written on the monument in the centre of Tower Green:-
“Gentle visitor pause a while,
Where you stand death cut away the light of many days.
Here, jewelled names were broken from the vivid thread of life.
May they rest in peace while we walk the generations around their strife and courage,
Under these restless skies.”
A very poignant reminder of all those who lost their lives in the Tower grounds – including Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, Jane Rochford (Jane Parker Boleyn), Margaret Pole and Lady Jane Grey.
To find out more about the Tower of London and to plan your visit, see www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon/