Full question: What was written on the sword used to execute Anne Boleyn - Shirley

I'm not actually aware of there being anything written on the sword that killed Anne Boleyn. As you know, the swordsman was French, from Calais, and was specially ordered. According to Eric Ives, he was an expert executioner and he charged £23 6s 8d for his services. I've checked through my books and online and I can't find any more information about the sword except that it was a heavy, continental sword.
Perhaps someone else will know.

OK, I've just found out what was written on the sword used in The Tudors Show (thanks to Ms Squirrly from The Tudors wiki!) and it says in French "La main droite, c'est ,mon seigneur. La Vertu, L'Amour Le Mort" which means "My Lord (as in Jesus/God) is the right hand. Virtue, Love, Death.". As Ms Squirrly has suggested, it may mean that the executioner feels that he is doing the Lord's work and that he, himself, is not to blame. Also I wonder if it is talking about Anne - virtue, love, death seem to be the story of her life!

This was written on the sword in the show and there is no evidence that I can find to suggest that anything was engraved on the real sword.

Hope that helps,



18 thoughts on “What was written on the execution sword?”

  1. Mary Benedict says:

    I’m opposed to the death penalty in today’s world, however, I can see where it was necessary in less technologically-advanced times. (Not for things like adultery and thievery, but for murder and treason.) The service provided by this swordsman was to create a humane, painless and dignified death for the condemned. So in a way, he was doing a good thing.

    1. Henry says:


  2. Lynn Kurdi says:

    Where is this sword today? Is it on display in a museum?

    1. Claire says:

      Hi Lynn,
      Nobody knows. The executioner would have taken it away with him as it was the tool of his trade and it obviously was not seen as special back then. Hever Castle have an execution sword in their collection but it’s not THE sword.

  3. Boleyn says:

    I would have thought that if there was anything etched into the sword it would have inpeded the blow. Therefore I don’t think that the sword was anything more than just that a plain smooth bladed sharp sword. I believe that most executioners had their own axe or sword anyway as it would have been custom made to suit their talents. Balance length, etc.. The only way we could really find out if the sword that killed Anne is still around is by finding out the name of the executioner who killed her, very often things like this were passed down from generation to generation, sons following fathers into the execution business..

  4. Draegun says:

    As a collector of blades and one who trains with these weapons, I can asure you that etching the blade will not impede its capability. However, in order to take off a head or cleave through any bone cleanly, the edge of the blade must be maintained with great diligence.
    The reason for the use of the headsman of Calais in Anne’s case was because of his reputation for being particularly swift and efficient with his duties. “He did not make a mess of things.”

  5. Oliver says:

    It is said that Henry VIII commuted Anne Boleyn’s sentence from burning at the stake to beheading by axe and then beheading by sword as an act of mercy. There are many different theories as to why Henry VIII decided to book the French swordsman:-
    1) Anne requested it – Can’t be true as he would have had to have booked the swordsman before her trial.
    2) It was to allow him to use a more merciful death as a bargaining chip to annul the marriage.
    3) It was in honour of Anne’s “Frenchness”.
    4) It was a political move to show Europe that he was showing Anne mercy or giving her a more queenly death.
    5) He wanted to give her a more merciful death because he knew she was innocent.

    Which one of these theories do you believe?

    1. Bodkinn says:

      There is no doubt in my mind that the answer to the question is a combination of 4 and 5.
      I do not believe that Henry would have thought it wrong to sacrifice any number of innocents in order to secure the succession.

  6. BODKINN says:

    The primary reason for Ann’s demise was her failure to produce a male heir and her contentious personality. Nonetheless it is easy to see what Henry’s thinking was following the death of Catherine of Aragon. As his wedding to Ann was not thought to be valid by a large number folk it would have been highly likely that even if she had produced a son the lad’s right to the throne would have been questioned. However if Henry disposed of Ann and remarried no one could question the right of succession of any product of a third union; which proved to be the case. Although Edward never lived to rule his right to do so was never questioned.

  7. Bodkinn says:

    I do not have much sympathy for Ann. She was in part responsible for the deaths of any number of people and never showed any regret about it. She would without doubt have had Mary done away with if it had been possible. Her attitude to Catherine of Aragon was vicious and unnecessarily cruel. Catherine had never showed her anything but kindness before Ann began her campaign to become queen. Her overriding ambition dominated everything to the exclusion of decency. It is quite possible that she did indulge in incest with her brother rather than a non-family member. Had she produced a male child who bore no resemblance to either her or Henry it would have been highly suspicious. Her end was in a way poetic justice. Maybe once Henry’s ardour had cooled he came to appreciate the sort of person she really was.

  8. android says:

    anne boleyn was a wife of henry viii

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  10. Patricia says:

    King Henry VIII was a tyrannical lecher. Women in the court had no rights to refuse the king. He used whom he wanted for his own pleasure & then threw them away without mercy. How many innocent people died to appease King Henry VIII’s narcisism & ego. He was a moral hypocrite; carrying on affair after affair when he was married & who knows what he did before he was married to Katherine of Aragon. He deserved to lose his head, along with every courtier that raped the women in the king’s service. Women were at the mercy of their father’s authority & then their husband’s regardless of the selfishness of the men over them that should have been protecting them. No one believed the women then, just like today until Harvey Weinstein. Oh & by the way Katherine Howard was the victim of child molestation by her piano teacher while in the Dowager Duchess’ keeping & was raped by Culpepper, who had a previous rape conviction before entering King Henry VIII’s court, there was no love affair only manipulation, sexual harassment & coercion by Culpepper. It was the men that needed to be locked into a penile sock, not the women who were tortured with chastity belts that often left them infected & deformed. Stop blaming the women we all know men can’t keep it in their pants & even when they’re obese, old etc. never look in the mirror but think they can still date young women & reject women their own age & mistreat them or ignore them like they’re invisible.

    1. Mercy says:

      Just out of curiosity: What is a penile sock?

    2. Bodkinn says:

      Not so. Compared to many other monarchs Henry VIII was frugal in his extramarital activities. The most well-known was Bessie Blount. As a young girl, she came to the King’s Court as a maid-of-honour to the King’s wife, Catherine of Aragon. It was there that the young teenager caught the eye of the King and became his mistress during 1514 or 1515, a relationship which continued for about eight years. She was the mother by the king of Henry FitzRoy, later created Duke of Richmond and Somerset and Earl of Nottingham. He was the only illegitimate son of Henry VIII whom the King acknowledged as his own. After Bessie he took Mary Boleyn and of course subsequent to her Anne Boleyn. Anne’s mistake – having failed give the king a male heir – was not to realise that the death of Catherine of Aragon cleared the way for the king to have a marriage the legitimacy of which could not be questioned if he could find a way to get rid of her.

  11. Denise LaTorre-Rasmussen says:

    Most of these comments are right from the Tudors TV series and written as if they are fact!!

  12. Claire (Not the site owner) says:

    “Bodkinn” here seems super, super invested in defending this murderous adulterer who used his power over Literally Everyone to enable him to do whatever he wished with the women in his court, with or without consent. Despite being a cheating, lying murderer who has been dead for 400+ years and was a literal king — a terrible one — some history re-writers like Bodkinn here are still trying to portray Anne as a wicked wench who was deserving of her fate, even as women in the current day an age struggle to speak up and be believed when sharing their experiences of assault and harassment by powerful men, men who aren’t even kings. But yeah, Anne totally had options and power and could have avoided her fate by magically producing a penis-having baby and never opening her mouth. Please, O Wise One, tell us more.

    Would anyone like to guess the gender of this Bodkinn user? I love the idea that because Anne was outspoken and treated Katherine poorly (while being pushed by her father to do so), she deserved her fate. Man, I can’t wait for time machines to be invented. Let’s have a do-over and lads like Bodkinn here can wear the corsets and chastity belts, and be subjected to sexual assault while the ladies sit on the throne, make (and break) all the rules, gorge themselves until hey can barely fit on said throne, and carry on extramarital affairs while murdering previous husbands for failing to impregnate them with female heirs.

    Oh, what’s that? Suddenly it doesn’t sound like Anne had it all that great? Imagine that. The fact that we’re STILL having this conversation nearly five centuries after Anne’s unjust murder at her husband’s hands is absolutely fascinating.

    By ‘fascinating,’ I mean repulsive.

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